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Senior civil servant at Driver and Vehicle Agency hit head on rocks while fishing and plunged into sea


A senior civil servant was knocked unconscious when he slipped and struck his head off rocks at a north coast beauty spot before plunging into the water, an inquest has heard.

Stanley Duncan (57), a former chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) from Comber, Co Down, had been fishing off rocks close to Harbour Hill shortly before 5pm on Tuesday, April 2 when he fell into the sea and drowned.

Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey ruled that a laceration to Mr Duncan's skull meant that he was likely unconscious when he plunged into the water near Portstewart Harbour.

The official cause of death was drowning in salt water, but the head injury sustained contributed greatly to Mr Duncan's death, the court heard.

Mr Duncan (right) had been on a day trip to visit his mother-in-law when the incident happened.

His widow Wendy said that although her husband was not an avid fisherman, he did like to do it for "some peace and quiet".

Ross McCullough, who was fishing with his brother Michael near where Mr Duncan fell into the water, told the court that he heard a thud and then a splash near the spot where he was fishing. He said that when he looked into the sea he saw a body floating.

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Mr McCullough said: "I had noticed some blood around his head in the water." He and his brother pulled Mr Duncan to the shore. But despite his eyes being open there was no sign of life, he said.

The Coastguard took Mr Duncan to the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine but he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Christopher Little from the Coastguard team confirmed Mr Duncan "hit his head on the ledge before he went into the water".


Stanley Duncan had worked in the Northern Ireland Civil Service for 36 years. He was part of the Driver Vehicle Agency since 1995 and was its chief executive for 10 years. Mr Duncan drowned on Easter Tuesday while fishing at Portstewart.

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